Del Lay Pierman, age 74, passed away peacefully at her home in Turtletown, TN, on Tuesday morning, February 15th, completing a life of joy, service, and love.
Del was born on October 16th, 1947, in Newton, MS, to the late Lt. Col. Henry “Hank” Lay and
Olivia “Lil” Lay. She found joy as a child on the family’s dairy farm, surrounded by her family and the loving community of Newton. While it remained their home base, though, her father’s career as a United States Air Force pilot took them across the country and around the world in her early years. She attended schools in FL, MS, TX, CA, and Tokyo, Japan, before graduating from high school in Albany, GA. After graduation, Del returned to Newton to help with the family cattle farm while studying and earning a degree in Home Economics Education from the Mississippi State College for Women.
Del taught many subjects, but she found the greatest joy in giving young people the practical knowledge they needed to navigate daily life, whether that meant budgeting their finances, shopping for groceries, or even cooking a meal. Working with the University of West Florida, she developed the curriculum for the state of Florida’s Life Management Skills course, which became a requirement for every FL student before graduating. In recognition of her dedication, she was named Florida Home Economist of the Year in 1984.
Del was an artist, known for magnificent pieces of stained glass. She sewed and created beautiful clothes and costumes for her children and grandchildren, and for their friends, as well. She was an avid gardener. Her yard was always filled with intricately designed flower beds, plants, and trees. She also drew the plans for the home she and her husband Dave built in Turtletown, filling it with imaginative touches like a shower floor made of Hiawassee River stones, copper rain gutters as light fixtures, and a pressed copper ceiling in her dining room.
Del was an athlete and found joy in competition. As a young woman, she was a varsity high school basketball player and an accomplished equestrian. As an adult, she coached baseball and cheered wildly for the Atlanta Braves and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.
Del found joy in serving others. She was a faithful Catholic and taught faith formation classes to countless children while embracing the mission of Catholic Charity to provide service to those in need, advocate for justice, and call on others of goodwill to do the same. She put those principles into practice through her efforts with the Ecumenical Outreach Committee at St.
Catherine Labouré Catholic Church.
Perhaps her greatest service was to the creatures whose care God entrusted to us. She loved all animals, but her greatest love was for dogs and many owed their lives to her. Upon retiring to Polk County, TN, where there is no humane society, Dave and Del worked with Dr. William Mitchell of the Copper Basin Vet Clinic to ensure that every stray dog was cared for and found a home of its own. They rescued hundreds of dogs, including quite a few that lived out their lives as Dave and Del’s pets.
Of the many ways and places Del found joy, though, the greatest joy of her life was her family. As the wife of a Navy aviator who traveled the world in defense of our country, Del was a single parent to their children for long periods of time and she embraced that responsibility. In addition to making sure that their daily needs were met, she also coached their teams, led their Boy Scout troops, helped them with their homework, nursed their wounds, and provided them with the strong foundation they needed for their lives. Later in her life, she also found immense joy in her grandchildren and fulfilled her YaYa duties by showering them with love and spoiling them silly.
Del was preceded in death by her parents and is survived by her husband of 51 years, Commander David Pierman, USN, Ret., her children, Peter Pierman (Rindy) of Newton, Molly Wright (Jason) of Rowlett, TX, Ben Pierman (Sherrell) of Smyrna, GA, her grandchildren, 2 Lt. Caleb Jones, USA, and Kaylee Jones, Hank, Maisie, and Adellay Wright, Oliva and Thomas Pierman, her sister, Laurel Mayes, numerous nieces and nephews and countless friends whose lives she impacted.
Joy cometh in the morning, and on Tuesday morning Del found her eternal joy. But not before finding, and providing, a lifetime’s worth of joy while she was here with us.
A funeral mass will be held on Saturday, February 19th, at 11:30 a.m., at St. Catherine Labouré Catholic Church in Copperhill, TN. She will be interred at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Newton, MS.
Memorial Donations may be made in Del’s memory to St. Catherine Labouré Divine Mercy charity, or your local humane society.
Arrangements entrusted to the Finch-Cochran Funeral Home of McCaysville, GA, you may send condolences to the family and sign the guest register at www.cochranfuneralhomes.com.